Roy Moore’s Obsession with Lolitas

Mason, Lyon in Kubrick’s “Lolita”


To understand Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s predilection for adolescent girls, turn to Lolita. Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece teaches us a lot about the mindset of a pedophile.

Not that Moore and Humbert Humbert are much alike. Moore is a fire and brimstone southern evangelical while HH is a cosmopolitan European who wows a small American town with his sophistication. HH is not at all religious, which means that his own inclinations don’t have a religious dimension. Nevertheless, both men are engaged in an obsessive search for purity, which they find in “nymphets.”

In case you haven’t been following, a meticulously sourced Washington Post story revealed that, 40 years ago, Moore strategically separated a 14-year-old girl from her mother and later went on to caress her and have her touch his penis. Moore denies the story.

He does not dispute, however, that, as a young district attorney in his thirties, he dated high school girls, including a 17-year-old he encountered in a high school civics class where he was brought in to lecture.  As one former colleague informed CNN,

It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird…We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall…

Humbert Humbert describes what “nympholepts” long for:

But let us be prim and civilized. Humbert Humbert tried hard to be good. Really and truly, he did. He had the utmost respect for ordinary children, with their purity and vulnerability, and under no circumstances would he have interfered with the innocence of a child, if there was the least risk of a row. But how his heart beat when, among the innocent throng, he espied a demon child, “enfant charmante et fourbe,” dim eyes, bright lips, ten years in jail if you only show her you are looking at her. So life went. Humbert was perfectly capable of intercourse with Eve, but it was Lilith he longed for. The bud-stage of breast development appears early (10.7 years) in the sequence of somatic changes accompanying pubescence. And the next maturational item available is the first appearance of pigmented pubic hair (11.2 years). My little cup brims with tiddles.

A shipwreck. An atoll. Alone with a drowned passenger’s shivering child. Darling, this is only a game! How marvelous were my fancied adventures as I sat on a hard park bench pretending to be immersed in a trembling book. Around the quiet scholar, nymphets played freely, as if he were a familiar statue or part of an old tree’s shadow and sheen. Once a perfect little beauty in a tartan frock, with a clatter put her heavily armed foot near me upon the bench to dip her slim bare arms into me and tighten the strap of her roller skate, and I dissolved in the sun, with my book for fig leaf, as her auburn ringlets fell all over her skinned knee, and the shadow of leaves I shared pulsated and melted on her radiant limb next to my chameloenic cheek. Another time a red-haired school girl hung over me in the metro, and a revelation of axillary russet I obtained remained in my blood for weeks.

Lolita’s power lies in the seductiveness of its prose. To keep from being drawn into HH’s mania, one must constantly remind oneself that he is an unreliable narrator putting his own spin on the events. One need but to take a step back, however, to realize he is a monster. As Dolores herself puts it at one point,

I was a daisyfresh girl, and look what you’ve done to me.

Just as Roy Moore found ways to win the trust of 14-year-old Leigh Corfman’s mother—the young attorney offered to look after Leigh as the mother went into the courthouse for a custody hearing—so HH insinuates himself into the Haze family. He marries Charlotte to stay close to 12-year-old Dolores and then finds all obstacles removed when Charlotte is hit by a truck. HH picks up Dolores from camp, takes her to a hotel, and has her take a sleeping pill as a prelude to sex. In his telling, however, it is Dolores who initiates sex with him.

In short, both HH and Moore sacrifice children to their own ends. Dolores is never anything more than Lolita to HH, and the same can be said of Moore’s victims.

In Reading Lolita in Tehran, literature professor Azar Nafisi discusses how her students, secretly reading Lolita in revolutionary Iran, identified with Lolita while seeing in HH the mullahs imposing their vision upon women. Moore, meanwhile, is a white Christian fundamentalist with his own purity hang-ups. As Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times reports,

For decades, one of the most sanctimonious moralizers in American politics has been Roy Moore, the longtime Bible-thumper in Alabama who crusaded against gays, transgender people, Islam and “sexual perversion.”

Moore suggested just this year that the 9/11 terror attacks were God’s punishment because “we legitimize sodomy.” He has said that homosexuality is “the same thing” as sex with a cow and should be criminalized, and argued that Representative Keith Ellison should not be allowed to serve in Congress because he is a Muslim.

Evangelicals like Moore are filled with self-loathing at their own sinful desires, which they project outward. Thus they seek to purify America of the contamination of LBGTQ, premarital sex, brown bodies, and other forms of desecration. They champion fetuses, which are still innocent, but lose interest once the fetuses become sinners in a sinful world (so no social welfare for children born in poverty). In their misery, they look to pure young girls for salvation.

Humbert Humbert draws audiences in with his gorgeous and impassioned prose, Moore with his self-righteous politics. When we don’t resist such narcissists, we drown in their sickness.

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